Shark ENG (1)
May 302013
 

It is being reported this morning that Jose Mourinho has finally signed a contract with Chelsea – but it cannot be made public until after Real Madrid’s final game this weekend. Mourinho has been long odds-on to replace Rafael Benitez and the price is now too prohibitive to even consider a bet. If you put 100 Pounds on it, you stand to win just 2 Pounds, but If you are still interested then check out this guide to betting on football.

The Sun has apparently been talking to a “club source” and are totally convinced that the deal is done though, and they report the Chelsea man as saying: “It’s official – Jose is a Chelsea man again!

“Everyone is delighted he’s coming back – the club, the players and the fans.

“We are already looking forward to next season; we are sure it’s going to be very exciting.”

If you fancy having some interesting bets then we should be looking at things like Chelsea to win the League (@ 3/1) or even the League and Cup Double (@ 18/1) or even the Premiership and the elusive Champions Leadue Double @ 33/1.

After Chelsea’s brilliant run at the end of the season to secure Third Place in the Premiership, the squad will be in confident mood in the next campaign, and if Jose Mourinho can also work his Special magic then there is no reason at all that Chelsea can’t be challenging for every trophy they are entered in next season.

COME ON YOU BLUES!

May 292013
 

It is perhaps a sign of how good a job Rafa Benitez actually did in the Chelsea dressing room, but there hasn’t been the kind of media outrage at John Terry’s exclusion from the Chelsea first team that we might have expected in recent years. Terry has struggled all season with injuries, and while he is still capable of big performances, he is in no way guaranteed to be first choice come the end of the summer. Terry fell behind David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill this season, and all 3 are far from falling into decline. It seems incredible that Terry can no longer get in to the team, but the question now becomes what will Terry’s role be at the club?

Ideally, Terry will be able to accept his new role as no longer being the top dog. There is still so much he has to offer this club, and not just on the pitch. In recent years, there have been suggestions of certain players having too much power in the dressing room. While this can be disruptive, if harnessed and used correctly, Terry can become a real leader to this team. He might play less regularly, but if Terry can accept this and refocus on helping the team, he could be of immeasurable benefit to the squad.

Having the kind of experience that Terry and Lampard have brings something to the team that players like Oscar, Hazard, Mata and co simply don’t have – they know how to win a Premier League. Unfortunately, it will be extremely difficult for Terry to accept this role. More than anything, Terry loves playing football, and he might not be able to come to terms with sitting on the bench for the majority of the season. Terry has served this club well, and if he did choose to see out his career somewhere warmer he would leave with everyone’s blessing. However, if John is willing, he could see out his contract and give us one more year. Even if he can’t win back his place in the team, the experience and guidance that he can give the squad could make the difference when it really matters. For this reason, I sincerely hope he stays with us.

May 262013
 

Long term transfer target Edinson Cavani is reportedly top of the list this summer as Roman Abramovich looks set to open his chequebook once again this summer. Cavani, the 26 year old goal-scoring machine, has been at Napoli for three seasons where he has netted an incredible 104 goals in just 138 appearances. The Uruguayan has long been admired by many of Europe’s top clubs, but we look to be the first to make a big move this summer in the hope of beating other big spenders like Man City to his signature. However, there may be one big unknown in this situation – Rafa Benitez.

Benitez looks set to be officially named as the new Napoli boss in the next 24 hours. Club president Aurelio De Laurentiis is an extremely difficult man to predict, and by all accounts difficult to work for as well, but it seems Benitez is willing to take on the massive task. Abramovich will be hoping that Benitez will be more willing to discuss terms with the team he just won a Europa League with, but it is difficult to understand just how Benitez feels about Chelsea.

Rafa did not have an easy time at Stamford Bridge. Many fans were extremely vocal in their distaste and dislike at his appointment, and they never warmed to him. The fact of the matter is that Benitez actually did a very good job in his short time at Chelsea. He managed to win back some of the power from the dressing room, navigate a dreadful fixture schedule while keeping his major players fit, and ended the season comfortably in 3rd position with a Europa League to his name. If Roberto Di Matteo had only come in when Rafa did and achieved the same results, he would be considered a hero. Unfortunately for Benitez, his reputation preceded him, and the fans never gave him a chance.

This may have left Rafa with a bad taste in his mouth, and it would be understandable if he would rather not do us any favours. At this time, it’s guesswork as to how open he is to doing business with Roman, but we must hope that his relationship with our board remains strong. Cavani at Chelsea would be an incredible signing, and one that would strike fear in to every team across Europe. As far as strikers go, Cavani is the genuine article, and we should be moving heaven and earth to land him. Fingers crossed.

May 162013
 

For the next ten days, Chelsea will officially be the reigning holders of both the Champions League and the Europa League trophies after a stunning 2-1 win over the impressive Benfica. Fittingly, it was one of the heroes of last year’s Champions League campaign that scored the dramatic 93rd minute winner – Branislav Ivanovic.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Chelsea though – far from it. In the first half, Benfica were the noticeably stronger team. Chelsea struggled to get hold of the ball and the 63% – 37% possession stats in favour of Benfica told its own story. Both Cardozo and Gaitan went close in the early stages, while Rodrigo fluffed a particularly good chance from six yards after a clever set piece. In spite of this, Chelsea very nearly took the lead when Frank Lampard unleashed a thunderous strike from all of 25 yards. Brazilian keeper Artur looked to be going the wrong way, but he managed to get an exceptionally strong hand to the swerving shot to tip it just over the crossbar.

Early in the second half it looked like Benfica had finally netted the breakthrough, only for Cardozo’s neat header to be ruled correctly offside. Things continued much like they had in the first until the hour mark, when a lightening break from Chelsea saw Fernando Torres round Artur and give Chelsea the lead. The goal was a lesson in direct counter attacking football. A long throw from Cech after a good save – a little flick from Mata and great strength from Torres to muscle past both central defenders and finish. It was the Torres of old, and it was impressive.

It wasn’t long until Benfica were level. Lima tried to play in Cardozo and the ball struck Cesar Azpilicueta’s arm. Cardozo duly despatched the spot kick and the teams remained level up to injury time, despite Frank Lampard smashing a curling 25 yard strike off the crossbar on 88 minutes. Then, when the draw looked inevitable, the somewhat anonymous Ramires chased down a ball to nothing in the corner, and managed to win a corner. There was a certain buzz in the stadium as Mata went over to take what was probably the last chance of the game. The corner wasn’t great, but one man wanted it more than anyone else. Ivanovic tracked 10 yards and, leaping backwards, powered a stunning header back into the far corner. It was a goal worthy of winning any final, and scored by one of the genuine nice guys in football.

There was time for one more scare from the restart, but Gary Cahill saved the day with an incredible slide tackle and hooked clearance from 6 yards out that really justified his selection at the back. Champions of Europe for another season, and a job well done by Rafa Benitez.

Say what you want about us, but we know how to win silver.

May 152013
 

Frank Lampard is set to lead Chelsea out as captain for tonight’s all important Europa League final in Amsterdam. The veteran midfielder, who is believed to be on the brink of signing a new one year contract extension, will be the focal point of Chelsea’s midfield spine against an always dangerous Benfica side. The match will be the 68th of Chelsea’s season – far more than they would have anticipated or indeed liked. However, at this stage of the season, the weary legs and bones will be forgotten about. If you can’t get yourself motivated for a European Cup final, then you’re in the wrong sport!

Chelsea are hot 7/5 favourites in the betting with Unibet but unfortunately, they will be missing some key players. Despite travelling with the squad, Eden Hazard will miss out with a hamstring injury picked up on Saturday. Talisman John Terry will also be absent – although Terry did try and join in training yesterday, the pain was clearly too much and the centre back has no chance of making the team. Demba Ba, who is cup tied from his exploits with Newcastle earlier this season, was included in Rafa Benitez’s 25 man squad that travelled to Amsterdam. Showing a slightly sentimental side, Benitez’s gesture will go some way to endearing himself to the travelling support.

Opinions vary on the expected line up, and much depends on Victor Moses. Moses picked up a slight knock at the weekend, but his great form in this competition to date has ensured that he will be given every opportunity to start the game. Personally, I predict that we will line up as follows:

Torres
Mata Oscar Moses
Lampard Ramires
Cole Luiz Ivanovic Azpilicueta
Cech

Although Luiz has been used in central midfield recently, his excellent form combined with Lampard’s presence would suggest that he will be favoured to Gary Cahill. Of course, Rafa hates to be predictable so don’t be surprised to see Luiz in midfield with Ramires wide right. Truthfully, we don’t have a huge squad from which to choose, and Benfica will surely be quite confident of our game plan. That’s fine – let them be. The important thing is that we play to our full capability, because if we do, we win. It’s that simple.

Thanks for the memories Rafa – it’s time to sign off in style. My prediction 3-1 to the Mighty Blues!!

May 092013
 

Chelsea totally dominated our arch-rivals Tottenham last night for 90% of the game, but simply failed to kill them off with the myriad chances that fell to all our talented midfielders, and when Spurs got an equalizer with ten minutes to go the Blues were in danger of losing a game that should have been over half an hour earlier.

Rafael Benitez just thinks that the tempo of the game caused our players to tire towards the end, which caused our jitters, especially when Gareth Bale got a chance of a freekick in the dying minutes. The Spaniard said: “We didn’t have the legs,”

“Their second goal was offside but still, we had to defend it better. At the end we were a little bit leggy and were too open, and they were pushing and attacking, and our final pass was a problem.

“We had some players tired, especially in the wide areas controlling their full-backs. We couldn’t hold the ball, so it was not easy. But we had to finish the game off. They pushed and pushed, that’s fine, but we had to find that third. We had chances on the counterattack to score the third goal, but there was no finish.”

So the Champions League place is still not certain for Chelsea, but a win in our 67th game of the season against Aston Villa this weekend will be enough, or we may have to wait for David Moyes last game for Everton, which may not be easy at all!

May 082013
 

There are very few Chelsea fans that will be sorry to see the back of Rafa Benitez at the end of this season, but his tenure here has not been a complete disaster. Rafa has brought the club to the final of the Europa League – navigated a truly horrendous fixture schedule that has seen a staggering number of games played, and looks well on course to securing Champion’s League football for the 13/14 season. For many, this in itself is not enough. That being said, and for all that the criticism that you can throw his way, Rafa does seem to have managed to do one thing that so many previous Chelsea managers could not. He has destroyed the player-power mentality.

Frank Lampard, John Terry, Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole are all Chelsea legends. There is no doubting this fact. However, the level of influence that they have previously wielded in the dressing room goes some way beyond natural leadership. Too often, player power has trumped the manager at Chelsea, and that is simply not the right way to run a club. There are many, many things you can say about Alex Ferguson as a manager, but you can never question the ruthless nature by which he controls his dressing room. Never mind selling or dropping popular players because it was the right thing to do – Fergie sold his own son because he wasn’t performing. When you put a manager in place, he has to have the respect of the dressing room, and he can never have that with senior dissenting voices disagreeing with him.

Jose Mourinho has the management skills and the strength of character to deal with such egos. He is, however, one of very few. The problem that our managers have always faced is one of time. If you take on the senior players, you are eventually going to lose your job. That was never an issue for Rafa – he was always only here to see out the season.

Rafa has no great fondness for the club, and he certainly had not fear of the sack. This freedom has allowed him to play the teams he really wanted to play. This meant giving Ryan Bertrand some games to develop. It has resulted in Ivanovic and Luiz forming a formidable and exciting partnership at CB over John Terry, which has allowed Azpilicueta to firmly establish his credentials at right back. Most notably, Rafa has used Frank Lampard correctly. Lampard is turning 35, and if he isn’t offered a new contract, the team needs to get used to live without him. That involves trusting Ramires, Oscar, Mata and Hazard in those roving midfield roles.

Rafa Benitez will not be missed. However, his actions have seen the spine of the next generation of Chelsea develop and grow. Intentional or not, it’s one hell of a silver lining.

Apr 282013
 

Chelsea have a massive game against Swansea City at Stamford Bridge today. It is a game that the Blues must win as we fight Arsenal and Tottenham for a top four finish, and it is one that we are expected to win. The Welsh club are sitting safely in mid-table and seem to have taken their foot off the gas since winning the Capital One cup against Bradford City in February.

Michael Laudrup’s team have won just once since that Wembley final, but the Danish manager will surely be trying to get his players to shake off the cobwebs and finish the season strongly. Remember also that Swansea knocked Chelsea out of that competition at the semi-final stage, so we should be ready for a tough game.

Rafa Benitez has called on his Chelsea players to be more clinical in front of goal. Despite winning away against Basel on Thursday, Chelsea should have put the tie out of reach but wasted a number of good chances to do so. That means that the Spaniard will be forced to field a stronger side than he would have wanted in the return leg next week. Having let the lead slip against Liverpool last weekend, Chelsea absolutely must take all three points today to make us favourites to qualify for next season’s Champion’s League.

“Always when you have lots of chances you want to be more clinical,” said Benitez.

“It’s something we have seen during the season, a lot of games where we were doing well in attack and still we didn’t take our chances.

“We had some good chances (at Basel). We scored one, and after we had two or three chances to score a second goal and a lot of counter attacks we couldn’t finish, so I think it could have been even better.”

Chelsea should have Demba Ba leading the line today and Juan Mata should start after being rested on Thursday, so we should have no problem making and taking chances, hopefully.

Chelsea v Swansea will be shown on Justlivestreaming.com

Apr 242013
 

Chelsea have still got eight games to play this season. That includes the Europa League final at the Amsterdam Arena in Holland on May 15th. To get there, the Blues have got to get past the Swiss side Basel that knocked Tottenham Hotspur out in the last round. They are a good side, but Chelsea are better and have got the added bonus of Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole returning from injury.

With those eight games being squeezed into the next three weeks, Rafa Benitez is having to manage the squad very carefully. The Spaniard is well aware that the fans and the club see finishing in the top four of the Premier League as the most important objective, with the Europa trophy being a nice cherry on top. The manager may feel differently, though, as he knows he will be moving on at the end of the season.

We have a game against Swansea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, so Cahill and Cole will be unlikely to play in both. The centre of defense is not such a problem, with John Terry, Ivanovic and David Luiz doing well. The left back situation is more tricky, although Ryan Bertrand has filled in admirable for Cole. I would prefer to keep Cole for the league games, at least as he is just coming back but expect Cahill to play tomorrow as we try to keep a clean sheet and set up the home leg nicely. That game next Thursday comes just three days before a trip to Manchester United, a game that could have a massive say on the top four, so we do not want to have too hard a game and certainly not extra time.

Apr 222013
 

The Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez certainly had an incident packed return to Anfield yesterday, and although everyone is talking about the disgusting behaviour of Luis Suarez, Benitez is wondering why on earth the referee kept playing after the 90 minutes to give Liverpool every chance to get an equalizer.

He was obviously asked about the Suarez incident after the game, but he clearly had another bee in his bonnet. He said: “I didn’t see anything, I was concentrating on the game and talking about football — we had the game nearly won. Why six minutes extra time? We don’t know. The rules are really clear… so six minutes and 45 seconds more is very difficult to understand.

“Having six minutes added on was a frustration, so to play 45 seconds further was another frustration.

“But I won’t speak to the referee. It will not change anything.”

Although Benitez didn’t want to discuss Luis Suarez, it is also a fact that if the Uruguayan had been sent off, he wouldn’t have even been on the pitch to score the equaliser for Liverpool!

All in all it was a crazy game, and it now means that Chelsea have a fight on their hands to remain in the Top Four after Tottenham managed to beat Manchester City to move within one point of us. A very very bad day for Chelsea and football.